The Labor Government’s incentives to lure metropolitan workers to regional Western Australia are too little, too late to help a State agricultural sector reeling from the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions.
The Nationals WA Leader Mia Davies said the Premier and Minister for Agriculture had failed to grasp the scale of the issue farmers and growers face to secure a workforce.
“Industry and The Nationals WA have been raising this with Government since March to little or no avail,” she said.
“This is in stark contrast to the support and co-ordinated approach the Labor Government took to address workforce challenges in the mining sector.
“There are nearly 1500 fly in fly out workers coming in and out of the State to service the mining sector, and today industry is asking for more assistance to meet their workforce requirements.
“Yet when it comes to helping agriculture the Government sits on its hands and avoids finding a gateway for essential staff.”
Ms Davies said the $3 million package to lure workers to an agricultural sector worth $10 billion was miserly and may be too little, too late.
“The delayed response demonstrates once again the lack of interest and understanding this Government has of agriculture, horticulture and fisheries,” she said.
“Over the past month the Premier and Minister for Agriculture have dismissed questions from The Nationals WA seeking clarity on the strategy, berated industry on their rates of pay in public forums and displayed complete ignorance of how the sector operates.
“This Government continues to put the onus on the Commonwealth and industry to do the heavy lifting on solving the worker shortage issue but shirks their responsibility to support a sector that helps underpin WA’s economy,” she said.
The Nationals WA agriculture spokesperson Colin de Grussa said the incentives won’t help businesses that need specialist interstate and overseas workers and need them fast.
“Many WA farmers need workers within weeks but they won’t be able to run headers or shear sheep because they can’t get skilled labour across the border,” he said.
“The Nationals strongly support the hard border as a means to keep COVID-19 out of the State but exemptions were always part of the process to ensure businesses – and the economy – kept ticking over.
“The McGowan Government needs to take a consistent approach across sectors when dealing with worker shortages – and the agricultural sector is running a distant second at the moment.”